Dolly Varden take several years before they are mature enough to be able to spawn.

Dolly Varden usually spawn when they are four years old, but may take as long as seven years old before they are mature enough.

Furthermore, Dolly Varden are usually between 18 and 22 inches long when they reach spawning maturity.

Unlike the Arctic Charr, the Dolly Varden travels great distances in the summer and fall and are not tied to the estuaries of their birth river.

Research indicates that they can travel over 1000 miles/1600 kilometres in the ocean before embarking on their river journey. However, once they reach the estuary of their birth river, their journey really begins.

When they reach maturity, they will travel up to the headwaters of their native stream to spawn, most of the time.

Some rivers are well over 115 miles long while others have a huge elevation variance for them to overcome. Some have to migrate up hill over as much as 3000 feet/1000 metres or more.

Jumping Dolly Varden

As mentioned on our introduction page, the Dolly Varden is a very strong fish capable to travelling long distances over harsh terrain.

As they migrate up stream, they are capable of jumping as high as seven or eight feet (just under 1 metre).

When they encounter an obstruction, they don’t immediately try to jump over it. They will first seek out the point of least resistance, often group together in a school before jumping.

August Dolly Varden Spawning

Dolly Varden begin their spawning as early as August, but may start later in the year depending on their distribution and other conditions such as climate zone.

Spawning is at its peak during in September and is over by November throughout its distribution.

Post Spawning Wandering

After spawning, the Dolly Varden will begin to wander off but there is not one specific place. Some will head off to the ocean, most will swim further downstream and spend the winter their before heading to the ocean in the spring.

Other Dolly Varden will stay where they spawned, though these are few number and in the minority unless of course they are landlocked and have no other choice.